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New Graduate Study Room to open in Memorial Library

September 16, 2016 By Natasha Veeser
Photo: Grad student study area

The new Graduate Study Room in UW–Madison’s Memorial Library was formally unveiled Sept. 16 and will open to graduate students on Sept. 21. Photo courtesy of UW–Madison Libraries

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries are always searching for ways to improve user experience. This fall, graduate students will have a new space in Memorial Library dedicated to their unique needs, as the Graduate Study Room opens Sept. 21.

Plans to renovate the 3,000-square-foot space, located on the fourth floor, began in 2014. With more than 9,000 graduate students at UW–Madison, Memorial Library group study room reservations regularly hover near 85 percent occupancy during the semester. The need for traditional use of library spaces by graduate students, combined with the evolving nature of their work created a growing need for a modern, secure, drop-in, and collaborative workspace to facilitate work not possible elsewhere within the building.

Photo: Ed Van Gemert

Ed Van Gemert

“For too long, our graduate students have been relegated to the famed ‘cages.’ While those solitary and quiet areas are conducive to some aspects of graduate study, it’s not realistic to think they meet all the needs of our students,” says Ed Van Gemert, vice provost for libraries and university librarian. “This space is designed to facilitate collaborative work with classmates, encourage cross-disciplinary conversations, and work in an open yet professional environment.”

With a maximum seating capacity of 80, the room allows for both work in small groups or solo work. The space offers an open floor plan, individual lighting controls in most workspaces, an abundance of power outlets, reservable space to practice and capture presentations for review, lockers, and display screens with wireless access. The modern layout and furniture are designed to reflect many professional workspaces seen today, while offering a nod to the era in which Memorial Library was built.

The new graduate study room is just one example of the Libraries’ push to repurpose spaces and reinvigorate the different ways in which the Libraries serve users. Throughout the renovation process, the Libraries received enthusiastic responses from campus administration, faculty, staff and students, in favor of creating a space specifically for graduate students.

Photo: Officials cutting ribbon

From left, Chancellor Rebecca Blank, former Provost Paul DeLuca, current Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf, and Vice Provost for Libraries Ed Van Gemert participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the study room Friday afternoon. Photo courtesy of UW–Madison Libraries

“A dedicated space for graduate students with workspaces able to accommodate groups of varying sizes, combined with ready access to the rich resources of Memorial Library, and especially the deep subject expertise and reference skills of library personnel, would be crucial to this enterprise,” says Professor Florence C. Hsia, in a letter of support for the project. Hsia works in the Department of History of Science.

“A space in the library for just graduate students would be a great place to work on research, since it would be very conducive to planned and serendipitous collaborative work,” said Ph.D. in English candidate Catherine DeRose during the planning phase. “A graduate student space would diminish the silo effects department offices have and would instead bring us into contact with one another in a common space.”

Van Gemert says the new space, which he credits former Provost Paul DeLuca and current Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf for championing, will serve as a model for future library renovations around campus.

The evolving nature of graduate students’ work through technology and resource gathering created growing demand for a modern, secure and collaborative workspace.

“This is another example of Libraries creating inspirational, flexible and sustainable spaces, like we’ve demonstrated with WisCEL, Design Lab, and BioCommons,” Van Gemert says. “We’re here to help build community and provide our users with a variety of valuable resources.”

Access to the new graduate study room will be controlled by a card swipe at its entrance. Authorization will be granted to graduate students who register and will be available any time Memorial Library is open.

The room officially opens for use at 8 a.m. Sept. 21. Open house opportunities for graduate students to view the new space will take place on Sept. 21 and 22 from 3 to 5 p.m.